Phagocytosis of microbial symbionts balances the carbon and nitrogen budget for the deep-water boreal sponge Geodia barretti

S. P. Leys, A. S. Kahn, J. K.H. Fang, T. Kutti, R. J. Bannister

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Geodia barretti is a massive nearly spherical sponge that forms dense assemblages on the continental shelf of the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea. We studied the metabolism of individual sponges collected using a remotely operated vehicle and maintained in large tanks with high volumes of unfiltered water brought from 160 m depth. We used direct methods (In-Ex) to measure excurrent flow rates, oxygen removed, and carbon and nutrient flux through the sponges. G. barretti had very low specific filtration (0.26 mL min−1 mL−1 sponge tissue) and low respiration (5.34 ± 0.98 nmol O2 min−1 mL−1 sponge tissue; 8.44 ± 1.51 μmol O2 h−1 g C−1) rates in comparison to other sponges. A net release of nitrogen was detected as NO- 3. Bacteria were removed from the water filtered with up to 99% efficiency, yet comprised only 5% of the sponges′ total carbon budget; the remainder consisted of dissolved organic carbon and detritus. High bacterial removal was aided by the presence of a tight gasket of cells that surrounds the collar of each choanocyte filter. A test for potential bypass canals showed removal of fluorescent microspheres until they were excreted 5–12 h after feeding. Electron micrographs showed active uptake of Escherichia coli “fed” to the sponge as well as phagocytosis of symbiont microbes by sponge cells in the mesohyl. These data provide the first comprehensive study of metabolism in a deep-water high microbial abundance sponge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-202
Number of pages16
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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